Hundreds of students, politicians, military personnel and members of the public gathered at the Mark R. Isfeld Secondary School in Courtenay, BC, on 9 March 2012 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the school's renaming and to recognize the Sapper for whom the school was named.
The school was dedicated in October 2001 in memory of Canadian Military Engineer Master Corporal Mark Isfeld who was killed in a mine explosion while on a peacekeeping mission in Croatia. The school was the first in Canada to be named for a Canadian Forces peacekeeper killed in action.
Special guests included a representation from CFB Comox, members of the Mark R. Isfeld chapter of the Canadian Peacekeepers Association, Master Warrant Officer Shaun Wright, and singer-songwriter and writer Phyllis Wheaton, who has recently written the book “In the Mood for Peace” about Mark Isfeld and his legacy of the “Izzy Dolls.”
Izzy Dolls, begun by Mark Isfeld and his mother, are small crocheted dolls that Canadian Forces members hand out to children in the war-torn countries where they are deployed. This Izzy Doll project and ICROSS Canada’s (The International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering) Izzy African Comfort Dolls have handed out more than a million Izzy Dolls knitted by people from all across Canada for children in need in many areas around the world.
During the moving ceremony, Master Warrant Officer Shaun Wright spoke about his time with Mark Isfeld as he had served alongside Mark during two tours of duty in Croatia.:
"He was a man, he was a leader, he was a humanitarian and he truly cared about the people he served with and about the people in the countries he was sent to protect. He was a brave man, he was an honourable man, and he was well respected by his peers- You could always count on Izzy to do the right thing. He was always forthright. He would tell you what he thought, and if he thought you were doing something wrong he wouldn't be afraid to tell you. For that, I will always admire him."
Phyllis Wheaton also addressed the crowd and explained how she had been moved to write Mark’s story, “In the Mood for Peace,” after hearing about the Izzy Doll program.
She said that hearing about Mark had inspired her to look for ways to help others and to remind herself to live up to the standards he had set for himself: compassion for the vulnerable, the children and the elderly; love of his family and work ethic that drove him to continue to risk his life de-mining so that others could live,. "One of the ideas that resonated with me was to do something with what you have," she said.
The ceremony also served as a way to recognize the students' achievements in the arts, academics, citizenship and athletics. During the ceremony, the school was also honoured with a flag dedication from the Master Corporal Mark Isfeld Memorial Chapter of Canadians Associations of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping.
[ w/credit to: Lise Broadley and Renee Andor - Comox Valley Echo]